iPads And Cerebral Palsy – A Modern Communication Aid?

Regular DH contributor, Sarah Ismail, writes about how the iPad has become just as much a mobility / communication aid as it is a lifestyle product.

I’m sure that when Apple first thought up the iPad, they didn’t bargain for it being used as a communication aid for children with Cerebral Palsy. However, it seems that there are now many Ipad ‘applications’ which can be used as a form of communication by people who are unable to communicate verbally.

I am involved with a small charity which supports the families of children with Cerebral Palsy, and over the last year, we have had a growing number of requests for iPads from parents who believe that these various ‘applications‘ – pieces of software to you and me – will greatly improve their child’s ability to communicate.

As a disability blogger, I have read and covered several stories of parents of severely disabled children who have created such iPad ‘applications’ themselves, in order to communicate with their own child.

One such father, Martin Brooks, even set up a website called Mia’s Apps, through which the programmes he created to communicate with his young daughter, who has Cerebral Palsy, are available for other families to download.

Martin Brooks has so far created two applications – the iComm, which the website describes as ‘a picture communication system, ‘ and the iSpy Phonics – the name says it all.

iPads are certainly ‘cool.’ Being the latest mainstream invention, I doubt that any disabled child or teenager would have any reason to be embarrassed about carrying one around. That is, I am sure, a lot more than can be said for the big, bulky voice boxes and laminated alphabet boards of the last century!

As with all good things, though, there are disadvantages. iPads, as we all know, have touch screens. These are extremely sensitive, so to be able to use an iPad or any application, you must have good co-ordination and finger control – something that is often difficult for people with Cerebral Palsy.

Also, just as disabled people and their families were starting to realise the communication related benefits of the iPad 1, Apple did what it does best and released an upgrade – the iPad 2. So the question is, for those who are successfully using an iPad 1 to communicate with their disabled child, how long will it be before they need to upgrade their whole machine just so that the latest piece of very useful communication software will work? And for those thinking of upgrading to the iPad 2, how long will it be before version 3 hits the shops?

By Sarah Ismail

For more articles by Sarah please visit her blog, Same Difference at

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